Opinion: Drinks companies need to shout louder about the positive work they are doing

Robyn Black

Robyn Black

20 May 2020

Those of us in the industry might be aware of the ways businesses are striving to help, but consumers are un-impressed by the response of drinks companies during the coronavirus crisis according to a new survey. Robyn Black takes a look.

A recent survey of UK adults by global research and analytics consultancy PSB, found that a mere fifth of young people thought that alcohol companies had exceeded their expectations in terms of their behaviour during this crisis.

This should be worrying for a sector that relies on this group, not just to consume its products but to serve and sell them in pubs, bars and restaurants as well.

It is also true that a company’s performance now will be reflected in consumer loyalty once this crisis abates – 72% of those surveyed said that ‘the way a company responds and behaves now in a time of crisis will change how I feel about them long term’.

30% of people – rising to 45% in the key under–35 demographic – think that drinks companies should be working with charities to tackle domestic abuse

Of course alcohol companies find themselves in a peculiar position at the moment – while no one wants to be seen profiting from the current misery, purveyors of alcohol need to be particularly sensitive when that misery has been caused by a health crisis. This is backed up by figures showing people are drinking less at this time (a quarter of consumers are drinking less during the lockdown, rising to a third of 18-24 year olds according to this survey). Rising sales of no and low alternatives reflect this – no- and low-alcohol beer is up 14.8% according to British Beer & Pub Association figures, for example. 

So, what do companies need to do to change such perceptions? Looking at the survey results provides some suggestions.

When asked ‘which of the following are the most important for alcoholic drinks companies to be doing during this crisis?’ 44% of people said ‘repurposing work to benefit the NHS’ should be a priority now. This was the top result, followed in second place by, ‘working to encourage responsible drinking’ with a third supporting that idea.

One of the more interesting areas to emerge was around domestic violence, however. Some 30% of people – rising to 45% in the key under–35 demographic – think that drinks companies should be working with charities to tackle domestic abuse.

Perhaps this is where alcohol companies can most easily increase positive perceptions of their actions at this time, then? That, and shouting far louder about what they are already doing.

I know from my vantage point in this job as an observer of the industry that there is a lot of good being done by companies, big and small. Perhaps what is not being done though, is publicising this – anecdotal evidence from talking to industry colleagues and wider family and friends would suggest so.

As for those companies not acting around any of these issues, now’s the time to chance your strategy before it’s too late.

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